Best known locally for his photography series “Architecture of Density,” Michael Wolf passed away this week on Cheung Chau aged 64. The photos depicted residential blocks as dense patterns with a sense of claustrophobia. HKFP shares the classic series by the award-winning German photographer, courtesy of Blue Lotus Gallery.
Born in Munich in 1954, Wolf was raised in the United States, Canada, and Europe. He attended college at the University of California, Berkeley and later received a degree in visual communication from the University of Essen. He moved to Hong Kong in 1994 while working as a photojournalist for Stern magazine, and started working under his own name from 2002 onwards.
“In Architecture of Density, I investigate these enormous city blocks, finding a mesmerising abstraction in the buildings’ facades,” he said.
The structures in the series are photographed without reference to the context of sky or ground, and many buildings are seen in a state of repair or construction: their walls covered with a grid of scaffolding or the soft colored curtains that protect the streets below from falling debris. From a distance, such elements become a part of an intricate design. Upon closer inspection of each photograph, the anonymous public face of the city is full of rewarding detail – public space is private space, large swatches of colour give way to smaller pieces of people’s lives. The trappings of the people are still visible here: their days inform the detail of these buildings. Bits of laundry and hanging plants pepper the tiny rectangles of windows- the only irregularities in this orderly design. The images of Architecture of Density give one an inkling of what our cities could look like if grown continues unchecked.
His friends in Hong Kong paid tribute to him and his work following his passing: “What I learnt from Michael was that it takes an extraordinary eye to see the ordinary, no matter how small or strange that is,” local artist Kacey Wong told HKFP.
Sarah Greene, of the Blue Lotus Gallery told HKFP: “Hong Kong was his favourite city which kept inspiring him, zooming out on the beehive with his iconic work ‘architecture of density’ and zooming into the veins of the city exploring the vernacular beauty of the back alleys.”